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What does it mean to "read"? - cellophane
the story of an invisible girl
renniekins
renniekins
What does it mean to "read"?
I keep track of the books that I consume. Some of them are audio, and some of them are paper. A few are even electronic. What I puzzle over sometimes though, is what verb to use for them.

I think we all agree that consuming a book with one's eyes is "reading". However I am also pretty comfortable saying that when a blind person consumes a book with her fingers she is also "reading". But how about audio?

I used to follow a blog of a blind woman, and she would regularly talk about the books she was listening to, and she called it "reading". It sounded weird to me though. "You're not reading," I almost wanted to say, "You're listening."

Then I thought: what's the difference really? The contents of a book are being taken into your brain for interpretation. Does it matter which of your senses is retrieving the data, when it's the brain which finally turns it into a story?

So now I will sometimes refer to having "read" a book on CD. Or I'll mention a book I'm reading... but it still feels funny, as though I'm cheating a little. M will occasionally question whether I really "read" what piece of information. I think watching a movie based on a book definitely does not constitute reading. However if every written word is read aloud, why shouldn't listening to those words be considered "reading"?

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ms_hecubus From: ms_hecubus Date: October 18th, 2011 04:56 am (UTC) (Link)
Your brain processes audio and visual information differently. It doesn't mean that one way is better than the other because for some people audio is clearly superior and for others not so much. But reading written words stimulates your brain differently than listening to those same words.

Reading on a screen is processed differently than on paper too.
amanda_lodden From: amanda_lodden Date: October 18th, 2011 11:50 am (UTC) (Link)
Readng on a backlit screen is processed differently. eInk screens (i.e., Kindle and Nook) are shaping up to be much more like paper.
pi3832 From: pi3832 Date: October 18th, 2011 05:35 am (UTC) (Link)
You don't read dramatic oratorio. Or This American Life. You do read braille.
johnridley From: johnridley Date: October 18th, 2011 10:32 am (UTC) (Link)
It's all reading IMO. A year after the fact I can't remember whether I read a book on paper or audio.
nishar From: nishar Date: October 18th, 2011 11:17 am (UTC) (Link)
When I listen to an audio book, I consider that reading. I like to check out an audio book and listen to it on the ride to work and back. You have to listen to it a few times for your brain to remember it as well as a book you read. That is the only shortcoming of an audio book.
johnridley From: johnridley Date: October 18th, 2011 03:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
This is entirely subjective. I find that I retain the story from an audiobook FAR better than if I read it in print. I'm getting better with print but it's not unusual for me to not remember a story that I read less than a year ago in print, but I recall even details from books I read on audio from years ago very well.

If something is coming in my ears, my brain is just wired to pay attention to it. OTOH it's not uncommon for me to have to read stuff in print many times before I can remember it; often I find that I get to the end of a paragraph and have no idea what it said.

This is one of the reasons why I can't even listen to music while I'm working - I find it impossible to concentrate on anything else when there's something interesting coming in my ears. I listen to audiobooks while mowing the lawn or driving, but that's about the extent of what I can be doing at the same time.
nishar From: nishar Date: October 25th, 2011 08:50 am (UTC) (Link)
Some people are able to retain more by listening than by reading. The Celtic Scops could commit entire epic poems of their culture and sing them flawlessly. That would be like remembering the complete works of Shaskpeare and the bible. I have problems remembering my lines in a short play. hehe
djinnthespazz From: djinnthespazz Date: October 18th, 2011 02:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah - "I'm internalizing a book" sounds a bit awkward.

pstscrpt From: pstscrpt Date: October 18th, 2011 03:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
I know that most of my spelling, grammar and probably writing abilities come from reading a whole lot of professionally edited material when I was a kid (and a fair amount now).

Audiobooks will not give you the spelling boost, but I'm not sure about grammar.
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